For many swimmers summer is the prime open water season and swimming outside of the pool is loads of fun. This is also the time for taking on an open water swimming race. Whether you’re new to open water swimming or a seasoned veteran, knowing how to master the start is a key to having a successful and enjoyable swim. When it come to the start of an open water race safety should be your first consideration.
If it’s a running start from the shore make sure you assess the bottom of the lake, river or ocean for uneven patches (holes) or other hazards. You’ll likely be amped up and you don’t want to end up with a twisted ankle or knee. Another consideration is making sure you’re deep enough in the water before you start ‘dolphining’ or diving forward. The proper technique is high stepping your way into the water until you are thigh or waist deep. You should also alway lead with your hands in front and not your head. For the more competitive swimmers, this is the point you want to break away and settle into your racing pace.
If you are lining up for an in water start consider your position in relation to the first turn buoy as well as you main competitors. Also, it is a good idea to mark your sighting references at this point. Look for landmarks that align with the buoys to help when there’s a lot of splashing and sighting may be a challenge.
Moving out of the chaos of the pack immediately following the start gives you a clear advantage as you negotiate the initial turns. If you’re more of a novice competitor, take your time and swim within your ability. Remember to keep your composer as there will likely be contact with your fellow competitors at this point of the race. Work on establishing the strategy that is best for you based upon the conditions, your experience and your main competitors.
Open water swim racing is a blast. Be safe, have fun and enjoy your race.